We live a natural lifestyle. Our business uses natural ingredients. We sell all natural products.
In 2006, we started losing our bees to what is now called "Colony Collapse Disorder". Bee experts worldwide have their own theories on why the world has lost about half its honeybees. These range from cell phone radiation to "the bees going ahead to another dimension in preparation for 2012." Up to the present, nobody knows for sure.
We studied all we could about this phenomenon and decided to address it from the angle of the main "pollutants", fuels and energy. We also decided to employ whatever was locally available. We managed to invest whatever profits we have made in over 5 years into our conversion to alternative fuels and energy. We are sharing whatever we have learned because we feel that this is a right way to live and it is doable now. The bonus is that as you trickle your investment stream into renewables, savings trickle back. Your savings rate accelerates whenever prices of fuel & energy rise.
99% of our water use is not for drinking. This is why we have constructed a network of tanks and cisterns to harvest rain and to hold river water. Our water conservation protocol: We use river water for flushing, washing cars, cleaning, irrigating. We use rainwater to bathe, wash clothes and utensils. We use deep well water for drinking and bathing when rain is scarce. The savings are inestimable because it invariably rains here and our use is continuous. Suffice it to say that we have free water for more than half the normal year. There are about 26 people who live here.
SOLAR THERMAL POWER
Because it is always cool here, one of our largest uses of energy was water heating. The problem with metal solar water heaters is that they clog up with minerals from water. We installed a locally fabricated, Sun Saver solar water heater that is almost pure plastic; no mineral deposits stick to plastic. We have turned off our old tank heater. This solar water heater heats all our water, i.e., our family of 6 can take simultaneous showers in two bathrooms, one after the other. It has a 200 liter insulated tank, which has a 2500 watt backup immersion heater. This backup heater raises the sun heated water from, say 68C to a preset of 80C; a mere 12C difference. This results in energy savings because the sun heats our water from an average of 22C to 62C! That is 34C!.
We have an abundant source of firewood – the prunings, deadwood and typhoon-felled trees from the little forest we planted around us more than 30 years ago. Our fireplace emits minimal smoke – burning firewood very efficiently; we use it for cooking - mainly boiling, stewing & some roasting. We have also installed pipes through it so when we cook, we can also have hot water.
We built a traditional oven for cooking, roasting and baking because it cooks very efficiently. It absorbs 90% of the heat of any fire burning inside it. It is designed to burn cleanly and efficiently. We burn a pile of wood for three hours inside it, and we can cook in it for two days without firing again.
The water pipes that run around it are connected in series with our fireplace, tank and solar water heaters. We can heat water three ways – in tandem or separately. This depends on available sunlight. Or whether we are cooking or not. One firing gives us about 4 to 5 days of hot water.
PS. Again, the savings are inestimable. Our fuel is almost free and when we cook, we have more hot water than we can use for days afterwards.
We decided to cook most of our food with wood or charcoal. Using Pinoy invented equipment, a sack of charcoal can cook more food than one tank of LPG, without smoke. At P200 per sack, this is a no brainer. We discovered charcoal briquettes made here in Silang. These are more earth friendly because they are made using a renewable resource - coconut husks. The more you cook, the more you save. The bonus is, food tastes so much better when cooked with wood or charcoal. Payback is instant – when you eat the food (;-)).
PS. Our charcoal cooking equipment, fireplace and oven are all smokeless.
We met Ricky Cuenca, a long lost cousin, who recycles used cooking oil by turning it into biodiesel. Ricky now supplies all our biodiesel needs. My daughter Liaa, had a school project that involved making biodiesel here on the farm. We now know how to make our own biodiesel. Cost is about the same as regular diesel but this has generated a lot of savings: 30% fuel savings because our engines run stronger, cooler and cleaner; longer intervals in between oil changes; no more calibration or tune-up expenses.
One of the biggest consumers of energy on a farm is pumping water. This is why we constructed a windmill-water pump designed especially for Silang wind/water conditions. It supplies all our water. We think everybody should use windmills because they draw a cup amount of water per stroke; which is much less than our natural aquifer recharge. In other words, our water use does not deplete our water table.
Our windmill pumps up water to tanks at the very top of our house. These top tanks overflow into other tanks on our roof deck. Our roof deck tanks overflow into our rain collection tanks. Windmill water mixes with rainwater and is distributed throughout the middle parts of our farm.
Our rainwater collection tanks overflow into our cistern which irrigates the lower parts of our farm. We have also constructed a fishpond at the base of our windmill to drain into the higher portions of our farm and our vegetable garden.
Wind, rain and gravity run our farm's water system.
SOLAR PANELS & WINDTURBINES
We installed 12 solar panels, 12 deep cycle batteries, a charge controller and an inverter in 2011. This has powered: 38 CFL lightbulbs, 4 computers and 1 TV. We are now doubling our panels and batteries to include: 2 refrigerators and 2 freezers. We also added 2 wind turbines to our solar-wind RE system. Actual payback is 42 months for each phase. To put it another way, we hope phases 1&2 eliminate 80% of our meralco bill - forever.
We are studying how we can dam our stream to install a pikohydro electric system.
Jatropa Curcas or "tuba tuba". We have planted a lot of jatropa to supply feedstock for our homemade biodiesel production. We are also planting palo maria and dungon trees. The branches of these trees can be burned when cut fresh from these trees. We are actively searching for other indigenous "petroleum" trees like hanga, sahing and others.
We produce our own water and distribute/irrigate without using electricity and without depleting our aquifer. We produce our own electricity from the sun and wind, eliminating about 80% of our Meralco bill.
We are already sufficient in biodiesel. Our gasoline fed cars emit a lot less pollutants from LPG. We have harnessed the sun and wood from our mini-forest to heat our water.
We intend to continue to explore more efficient and less polluting sources and uses of alternative fuels and energy: gassifying wood, Brown's gas, biogas from blackwater or waste, pikohydro, photovoltaic glass, loop wing & vertical axis wind turbines, geothermal or aqua thermal cooling, more efficient ways to collect rain, free energy and much more.
We hope to eventually sell power to the grid. We have been sharing what we have learned. We invite all who are interested to join us. When there are enough of us selling power to the grid, this will eliminate the need for expensive transmission lines and cut the cost of power by about 50%.
Joel F. Magsaysay
March 22, 2011